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Zinc and Zinc Deficiency


Zinc (Zn) is essential in the body for the functioning of approximately 100 enzymes, which are substances that promote biochemical reactions in your body. Zinc supports a healthy immune system, is needed for wound healing, helps maintain your sense of taste and smell, is very important for healthy skin and properly functioning nervous and digestive systems. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.

Brown and colleagues estimated that nearly 50% of the world’s population likely has inadequate zinc intakes based on analyses of food balance data.

Severe maternal zinc deficiency results in serious health consequences for the fetus. Severe maternal zinc deficiency is associated with infertility, spontaneous abortion, and congenital malformations, including neural tube defects. A high incidence of birth defects, including nervous system malformations, has been observed in the fetuses of women suffering from acrodermatitis enteropathica, an inborn error of zinc absorption, and treatment with zinc can lead to normal pregnancy outcomes.

Low zinc levels may also be found in cirrhosis and diarrhea. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, community-based study conducted in the Tiljala slum of eastern Kolkata, India, showed that zinc supplementation had a beneficial impact on the incidence of diarrhea and also weight gain among low birth weight infants.

Excess intake of zinc, on the other hand, especially with individual supplements, has the potential to encourage the growth of prostate conditions from BPH to cancer. In fact, one large study found a significantly higher risk of advanced prostate cancer in men consuming large intakes of these supplements. Large doses of zinc can inhibit the benefits of bisphosphonate drugs, increase testosterone levels, increase cholesterol, reduce levels of “good cholesterol” or HDL, and can promote immune dysfunction.

Do you need Zinc?
Signs include:
  • White spots on fingernails;
  • Poor smell or taste;
  • Slow wound healing;
  • Frequent infections;
  • Sugar craving;
  • Stretch marks.

Zinc is obtained from a wide range of food in the diet. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, but red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc in the American diet. Other good food sources include beans, nuts, certain seafood, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products. The recommended daily intake is 15mg a day in adults.

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